India’s Crest Animation Goes Down Leaving Artists Unpaid

That tweet above was in reference to a combination of problems in India’s VFX & animation industry this year: R+H’s bankruptcy, Prime Focus running very low on cash late 2012, Reliance Mediaworks continuing to blow money away year after year, and outright fraud by bogus industry reports of growth and crooked education facilities.

This weekend another shoe drops as India’s Crest Animation closes:

The employees, who haven’t been paid their salaries in months, nonetheless did not anticipate such a move. “For almost two years our salaries have been an issue. Salaries have been ariving late and at times we only get a portion of it. As of today our salaries for the past nine months are due. But in all this there hasn’t been any talk of shutting the company down,” said another employee, who has been with Crest for the past 15 years.

Even with cheap labor in India, Crest Animation never made a net profit.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was because I felt the media reports that the VFX industry was suffering from a massive amount of work going to cheap labor locations like India was overstated. The vast majority of VFX work is going to expensive places that are able to offer huge market distorting subsidies.

Soldier On.

Related posts:

Is It Over For India’s Outsourcing Model?

The Price Of Outsourcing In The VFX Industry

53 Responses to India’s Crest Animation Goes Down Leaving Artists Unpaid

  1. Rob says:

    Wouldn’t a possibly even more important aspect of this be the fact how underpaid VFX generally is, not even allowing for profit in a country where labor is already so cheap? Or at the least an indicator of how low companies are willing to bid. That is nothing new of course but still another example with actual figures and consequences.

    By the way – have you seen that they were working on “Care Bears”? What bitter irony.

  2. kafoo says:

    Crest hasn’t done VFX in decades. They do long form CG (TV, film). Poor productivity, mis-management (maybe not just incompetence), too much focus on stock prices and being too low down the totem pole on their film with Lionsgate (Alpha and Omega) to recoup anything despite low budget and DVD success, have led to the cash crunch and closure. The sad part is they had some good corporate backers like DE Shaw.

  3. FXDigital says:

    ??? This is entirely due to bad management

    • Linc says:

      FXDigital

      In a word…yes.

      The visual effects industry has wasted years and years blaming everyone else for their lot in life.

      Perhaps, the icing on the cake is the new white paper from VES finally stating similar thoughts about business models as a result of their conference early this year with the industry ‘stakeholders’. If it takes VES/stakeholders this long to figure out this may be a big problem, perhaps, there is something wrong with the way the industry handles itself, which is another way to say management needs serious improvement.

      That being said, don’t think for a moment that management does not take quite a chunk of change out for themselves during the ‘good’ years, and protects as best as possible against any downward activity. After all, they know this long before the staff does.

      Management is a lot like lawyers…no matter who wins or loses…at the end of the day the lawyers most often get paid.

      Quite frankly, it is mind boggling that it has taken so long for this to finally come to the forefront.

      Not too confident that anything will much improve for the artists, but it cannot get much worse…or, can it?

  4. Dave Rand says:

    Maybe we get them some of those free Math Lessons?

  5. Jackadullby says:

    Honestly, wherever you are in the world, whatever your income level, what possesses someone (let alone someone with 15 yrs experience) to continue working whilst being owed “nine months” salary?

    I mean, this surely is ‘part’ of the problem.. If we want to gain some respect as artists, this is a terrible way to go about it.. Centuries of exploitation and we’re still lining up as lambs to the slaughter.

  6. vfxmafia says:

    I did a tour of duty at R&H about 5 years ago. We would get email reports that the Mumbai division server went down every other week. I was like “the power went out in the India office”? And someone was like “No…power is out in the whole frigging city of Mumbai”.

    I was shocked…I asked how a bond company could reasonably back a production there if the there was no power?…..no one gave me answer. I remember how bad it was during the Enron scandal and rolling black outs in LA…..could you imagine trying to make deadlines and the power goes out years on end?

    http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/new-documentary-powerless-captures-indias-electricity-crisis-on-fil/

    I feel for the Indian artists who got screwed out of their paychecks. Reminds me of Los Angeles.

  7. FXDigital says:

    Ditto. I agree, who stays 9 months without pay before finally leaving??

    • vfxmafia says:

      Who stays 9 months with out pay?…..a really poor broke ass desperate Indian.

      You do realize that half the country is without electric power?…..and people climb on top of trains just to get to work?

      I once worked with Harris Savides (the late great DP). Harris had just gotten back from Ballywood. He said he ordered 10×10 silk to diffuse the light one day on set….and 5 indian guys come running up to him ….all dressed in white….white shirt…..white pants…white shoes….

      Harris is like what’s this? The producer explained silk is so rare in India….that this what they do for bounce light….a human bounce card!!! Mean while these 5 guys dressed in white had to stand in front of a 20 K light. Do you know how hot a 20 K light is?

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        Desperation is correct. They’ve worked 9 months without pay, in hope that they do get paid, even if it’s a small portion of what they are entitled.

        Considering how long I’ve been without work in L.A., I now understand why people do that. It’s better to work for $4.50 per hour then not have a job at all, because no matter how little you get paid, that difference might be all that’s determining if you survive or not. That difference might be nothing more then the cost of a roof over your head, clothes on your back or even a single sandwich that determines if you actually live or die.

      • Rob says:

        I knew somebody in Germany who didn’t get paid in over a year and only then decided that maybe it’s time to switch companies. And some cases where it was/is not as extreme. But still, around half a year for quite a few people.
        It obviously doesn’t necessarily take a “really poor broke ass desperate Indian”.

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        That’s only assuming there are actually another job options for said artist to go. What if there are very few options, and very few jobs? That creates poor and desperate. If there are other job options available, then yes. It’s nothing more then stupidity.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Rob,

        I usually get paid 1099 and sometimes staff employees get their checks first….I have had “problems” with my invoices up to 2 months before. I even had one client take 6 months to pay me from a huge company which will remain unnamed. I was also their when Asylum went bankrupt and worked us two weeks with OT and didn’t pay us…….

        As far as my comment “really poor broke ass desperate Indian”…I meant that in an endearing way…seeing as im a “really poor broke ass desperate LA artist”.

        One thing that people don’t realize about what is happening to LA…..is that it is not just jobs that are disappearing…its also the companies themselves that are gone. I really feel for the Indian workers that get trained up and promised jobs and then the companies just disappear…

  8. FXDigital says:

    Yes. Bad management is bad management

  9. india says:

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    and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you recommend a good hosting provider at a honest price?
    Thanks, I appreciate it!

  10. Cygnis FX says:

    This is another exaggeration that most Indian studios hide. The actual cost for Indian animation, when everything is figured in, is about 75% of the cost for the same work done in the states. That’s for work that is less than half the quality….

    • mahesh says:

      Sorry to say u have no idea about the low cost of living and salary in India… Actual salary inn India at higher end is 10 to 12 thousand $ per year. Higher end means people who are working in big Hollywood movies that doesn’t get much published in states.
      I am sure you would agree that good supervisor and directors can get the quality out of any one irrespective of where they belong.

  11. james says:

    Hello Guys,

    Most of the artists outside india thinks lot of Hollywood movies work is getting done in india, if you think this then you are wrong.

    Will Brief a bit..
    only few studios in india has the capacity to do vfx and deliver articulate work for Hollywood few are MPC, Reliance, RnH , Sony and PF in those only 20% artists has real knowledge of Hollywood quality remaining artists are dummies with highest knowledge of foot licking of managers and worthless supervisors for thr survival.

    Many small studios which have opened doors for Hollywood are recently busy with only roto and paint mainly for 3d conversion and vfx paint yes seriously horrible.

    3d movies with quality of hollywood is impossible though they have talented artists in India. Mostly studios look into quantity rather than quality so 3d studios will be keep on shutting and will be coverted to 3d stereo vfx shops…its true !!!

    India has 35 states with 30+ languages spoken and every state has thr own movie production houses and local vfx houses.
    So closely to 20+ domestic movies releases every friday. So india has enormous man power in vfx and 3d for domestic movies and very less for Hollywood….Let me enjoy my beer now..:)

    • Rahul says:

      Totally agree!

      • mani says:

        I too agree..I attended a test in MPC Bangalore..Interview and test was so funny the lead had no knowledge of nuke and work he was assigning….he was just boasting his skills,experience…I can tell he was a just chatter.
        when he came to know I am from his home town he showed me the other artist workfiles which were approved but i was not recruited for demanding life survival package ( I mean salary )….I really dont know who chooses them as leads. Obvious company will tear up with low knowledge artists and knowlegable artists will remain as just artists so sad !!
        Have mercy on skilled artists MPC don’t let them go away.

      • jaswanth says:

        you are right james. my lead and supervisor dont no basic of cg passes graining etc. but still active in company from several years and finals the shot for foreign movies. His Salary is sky rocket high.

      • mahesh says:

        I totally agree james… I really dont know if it is their strategy but most of the foreign supervisors I worked in India are far worse and give bizarre reviews they dont even match up to the level of junior artists sitting next to us…
        I really think it must be a strategy or else they dont justify the name of the company they previously worked…

  12. Scott Ross says:

    “We have met the enemy and he is us”
    -Pogo

  13. Joey says:

    DD3 and Ed stepping down… well the story was nice, made a change from sickness and wanting to spend more time with his family….

    As for Seah, when will you vfx people get it, most of that work is going to go to China in the long run.

    In the short run, he’ll put the screws on saying if you want China co-prod status, like im3 wanted but never got, you’ll do vfx with us. Otherwise you wont get wide in China. And they means money.

    Anyone that works there will be, by creating the vfx, doing themselves out of a job. As you can bet your last paycheck that all of the source will be learning materials for the Chinese parent.

    They will strip them down, and re-create them, to learn exactly what even Seah admits they cant —yet— do.

    When they do learn, well – no point in employing two sets is there.

    And so DD3 will become a plush mahogany management office.

    • vfxmafia says:

      new CEO in Daniel Seah, “who by his own admission has almost no experience in the world of visual effects or Hollywood.” Sun Innovation has a business trading copper and plastic scraps in and around China. I hate to tell you VFX is not like running a scrap yard…….

      And for 10 years now we been waiting for China to take over VFX and the world……and it hasn’t happened….

      This was a report on CNBC just today labeled “Watch out for China bubble bust?”

      http://www.cnbc.com/id/100921496

      Joey you sound like you know as much about VFX as Daniel Seah.

      • Jackadullby says:

        Agreed, commoditize anything and it’s at the cost of real innovation.

        If you’re relying on VFX for the success of your tentpole (over story etc), you need to wow audiences with something they’ve never been able to experience before, year-on-year.

        Think rollercoaster designers.

        Commoditize VFX for outsourcing (Assuming it’s even possible across all key departments) and at ‘best’ you’ll get stagnation of the technology. At worst quality will start to take a nosedive.

        In either scenario, I reckon you can expect audiences to become as jaded as the artists churning the stuff out..

      • joey says:

        who by his own admission has almost no experience in the world of visual effects or Hollywood.

        that’s the WHOLE POINT…. IT”S ABOUT MONEY. FOOL.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Joe,

        I was responding to your condescending remark “When will you VFX people get i……Most of the work is going to China in the long run.”….I take it your not a VFX worker?

        DD was bought out by Galloping Horse which basically got a loan from the Chinese government. And now Sun Innovation is found out to be a sketchy “shell” company for a mysterious billionaire. Sun only made $800,000 last year, and got the $30 million cash injection by this guy Mr. Che… this thing has trouble written all over it.

        Add that most of the talent that made DD great has been quietly “dismissed”…..or given a pay cuts…….Most VFX companies are operating at a 5% mark up or need up to 70% of their budget to come from subsidies. DD is NOT an attractive investment right now. What studio producer would give a dingle berry like Seah shots to handle?

        DD is still in effect closing Venice and has their hands in Vancouver Subsidy money. The pirate ship has sunk and left a life preserver where shady Chinese investors throw away their money. When you say “Its all about the money” …..I guess my question is what money are you referring to?

  14. QT says:

    ‘Seah said he hopes to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers to expand the current system of tax incentives to extend to post-production work.’ – ‘tax incentives’ – another word for subsidies? I guess we should be protesting this too. We don’t want subsidies, remember? Oh yeah, but if it’s in the States it doesn’t count.

    • vfxmafia says:

      Jerry Brown has already said firmly he does not believe in film subsidys. California just showed a surplus this year after laying off 25,000 teachers….

      Anyone who knows California politics knows it is a bullshit statement by Seah….

      Seah also said “The visual effects suck in China. It’s really bad,” he said. “They’re trying, but we think the time is right for us to bring the knowledge and technology from the west to the east.”…..cant collect subsidys if your shop has moved to China….

      So STFU from the anti-subsidy crowd….

      • Nick says:

        This is a purely hypothetical question but I wonder what the reaction of many on this page would be if California did implement subsidies and jobs came back to L.A.? MY hypothetical answer would be that this page would go pretty quiet and there wouldn’t be any protests. You’d maybe still have the older guys or the guys that made the switch from VFX that could afford to make a stink about things be vocal but the majority of “out of work” artists would go back to work I suspect (until it the subsidies are taken away again) The thing that bothers me about the CVD is that it feels like a cop out. “Get rid of subsidies!” has been the mantra of this page since it was created. Now it feels like the mantra has become “Prevent money from leaving the USA!” and does nothing to address state-wide subsidies(Oh well at least it’s back in America). It just feels like if subsidies came back the ant-subsidy crowd that turned into the CVD crowd would perhaps turn into the at least we have work crowd…..

      • vfxmafia says:

        Just one awarded CVD petition might stop all studios from taking international money…..effectively ending international subsidies…..which then will stable the market and eliminate distortion bubbles…Once the studios loose leverage and VFX shops stabilize…..labor organizers can make a big push for labor
        rights….including standardized pay….OT..and normal hours….and reform of the bidding process…

        so how is this a bad thing for any VFX worker? I think your reading into this country vs. USA thing.

      • meinvan says:

        vfxmafia, i think your missing the point.

        even if the cvd works, in one case….why would they stop doing it in all countries….as what i understand is that you have to bring forth a seperate filling for each “offender”.

        also if it happens, how do you know that the studios are not going to push those costs to the shops, as the studios are not importing anything….only the vfx service provider.

        and on top of that, its still way better for the studios too pay a small amount of cvd’s, and have the stability of a social system that works alot better and lower cost to the employer. ie, works visas, health insurance, better infrastructure, much bigger pool of artists….etc….

        i understand where you come from, but as somebody else said, looks like cvd’s might just backfire and make it that much worse for you…

        Instead of spending those countless hours trying to refute anybody who speaks up with a different point of view, do something with your life. its too short to try to take it up with the mega mega corps of this world. lost cause in my book.

        but hey, whatever floats your boat.

      • Nick says:

        Forgive my ignorance if I come across as unknowledgable but in the instance of DD that has been bought by a Chinese company, they wants to award some work to DD at any location they may have in the USA because it is subsidized am I to presume you would fight for a CVD on your own work and award the Chinese their money owed? What about Prime Focus?

        I realize the idea of CVD’s is to hopefully have a ripple effect but I’m curious as to how the anti-subsidy crowd will react to all these different situations if and most certainly when they arise. It’s easy to regurgitate talking points but the CVD approach is only isolating you guys and at least for me has lost trust in the movement.

        “Trust us guys, we’ll do the right thing once the money is flowing again.”

      • vfxmafia says:

        To meinvan:

        To answer your question about CVD backfiring. If one CVD case goes through it will set a precedent for other cases. Since all big 6 studios are American…they ALL would be liable to pay CVD fines. If one CVD went through they would stop the practice of searching for subsidy money due to the fact that they would have to eventually pay the CVD fine back….

        The amount of the CVD fine is extensive…it is for the FULL amount of the subsidy. You could see fines totaling tens of millions of dollars. Why take subsidy money if you have to pay it back?

        And as far as your comment about foreign VFX companies having a better health car system. That really does’t factor into VFX contracts. LA VFX workers have been working freelance (without benefits) for years and pretty much working without health care in most cases….LA workers have been working harder and for less money for years to keep up with foreign subsidys….US labor costs are not the issue.

        And to respond to your comment “about countless hours posting on this website”. Well I got laid off last week…so i have a lot of free time to respond to your postings😛

      • meinvan says:

        @vfxmafia

        once again,

        im not sure if i follow your train of thought. why would they stop looking for subsidies if a cvd case is won? specifically, if a cvd against say canada is initiated and won.

        why would they stop using UK, NZ…..etc if they wernt part of the initail cvd case.?

        From what i understand is that itll take at the very least a year to get to a rulling, more like 2 with whoever is going to put the case forward to do their research and get everything in order and together….and that would still only be targeted against 1 countries subsidies.

        Secondly, even if a case against every subsidized country is started, and lets just assume won, it doesnt mean that they wont keep using those locations, as the cost would be the same….

        the big reason for that in my book is the american immigration system, its flawed against most other “first” world countries. LA could never have enough qualified people to crank out all the work necesary these days, certainly not if their hands are tied about getting foreigners into the country…and commiting to give them staff positions (even if you just look at the americans in the LA studios, how many of them are staff?!?!)

        again, not really an issue in canada, a bit harder in uk, but not nearly the same as in the states. visas last longer, are easier to obtain. You dont get booted from the coutry after two weeks if you lose your job….and you are still part of the system and dont lose everything if you get laid off.

        No shit health care is a non important part of the equation so to speak….but thats not entirly correct either. LA is pushing hard for unions, increasing the cost further…in the hope to offering better security for the workers, ie health, pension…etc.

        This is a non issue in canada or uk. as they are part of the normal system. and a cost that the studio doesnt “really” have to carry.

        In that case you have been spending alot of time posting and researching, whilst you were still working. i wonder if that had any influence on you getting laid off?

      • vfxmafia says:

        Meinvan:

        Its clear you real agenda is to come on this website and stir things up. So my real question is why are you such a prick?

      • Nick says:

        It’s pretty easy to scroll this site and find out who the prick is and there’s no need to take such a childish stance on some very valid arguments and questions that should be thought about clearly. We all have questions. One for you would be Were you laid off or fired?

      • meinvan says:

        wow, my real agenda is too have a discussion, as apparently you are not capable off.

        i am sorry for my remark regarding how you spend your time and why you were laid off….not my place to say those things.

        But to get back on topic, do i have to agree with your opinion, otherwise im stirring stuff up. apparently your not one for free speech.

        please read my post again, and tell me how my reasoning is off, as i just reread your post, and it just doesnt make sense to me why you think a won cvd case is going to bring all the “stolen” work back to LA.

      • QT says:

        work made outside of LA is not “stolen”. People work really hard. to make great work.

      • meinvan says:

        qt, agreed, thats why i put in in quotes (” “), no offence intended.

  15. vfxmafia says:

    More like John Textor 3.0…… than DD 3.0!

    This article makes Seah out to be super villan. With Sun Innovation net profits last year of only US $800,000 in 2012….add a shady mysterious billonare investor…..and wow…..

    http://variety.com/2013/biz/news/inside-the-sale-of-digital-domain-to-sun-innovation-1200568954/

  16. John says:

    “I worked closely with Ed on every major decision since the bankruptcy,” Seah said. “I was the bridge between Digital Domain and Sun and Reliance.”
    Poor Ed was just a puppet since the begining…
    He had to live with guys like Cliff Plumer and Textor in charge
    for so long and when finaly he got his dream job as a CEO
    of “his” DD, he was just a Chinese puppet. It’s really hard to like this
    self-admiring narcissistic guy, but you have to feel bad for him…

  17. Pookie says:

    Who needs Solidarity. When you have weaseldarity? I don’t trust 98% of my motiondesign colleagues. They’ll stab me in the back sooner than do me any good.

    -pookie

  18. JOEY says:

    wrote Seah. “If it buys a film production company, the films still have to go through the quota system in China. Buying a visual effect company will be an easier path for them to potentially link Hollywood and entertainment in China in a short future.”

    As I stated !!

    So please dont delude yourself that it’s about vfx and the vfx workers, they couldn’t care two hoots about vfx workers.

    Vfx that’s just the thing they make, that has nothing to do with the business of business, which this deal does.

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